Jessica Gutierrez

Jessica Gutierrez a 4 year old girl was taken from her Lexington, South Carolina home in 1986, and still has not been found, Jessica’s older 6 year old sister, Rebecca, stated that Jessica had been abducted by “the man with the magical hat and beard”

Details of Disappearance

Jessica was sleeping with her two sisters in a bedroom in her family’s Lexington, South Carolina mobile home on June 5, 1986.

An unknown intruder or intruders broke into the house between 11:30 p.m. that evening and 9:00 a.m. the next morning, June 6. The intruder(s) apparently entered the living room through the window and removed the screen and curtains. The abductor(s) then took Jessica from her bedroom and exited the house through the front door.

Jessica’s mother discovered the crime scene and her disappearance on June 6; her six-year-old sister, Rebecca, claimed she was abducted by “the man with the magical hat and the beard.” She’s never been seen or heard from again.

Rebecca, who is now an adult, recalls seeing a man lift Jessica from her bed and carry her away. She claimed the man could do this without waking Jessica. Rebecca had been too terrified to tell anyone about what she had witnessed until the next morning, when Jessica was discovered missing.

Debra, Jessica’s mother, had just broken up with her boyfriend and kicked him out of the house for alcohol use and what she described as possessive behavior. Debra accused her ex-boyfriend of kidnapping Jessica, but he denied knowing where she was. Police questioned the man several times but never charged him. Jessica’s father was ruled out as a suspect in the case because he was in California at the time of her kidnapping.

Thomas Eric McDowell, a family friend who was 27 in 1986 and had served time in a North Carolina prison for rape, has long been suspected of Jessica’s kidnapping. His fingerprint was discovered on Jessica’s bedroom window. It was the only fingerprint on the window, and Debra claimed she cleaned it every night.

McDowell allegedly told a cellmate in 1987 that he kidnapped a girl in Lexington County and buried her body in a landfill. He stated that he was wearing a tall cowboy hat during the kidnapping. His cellmate informed authorities about his statements, and when confronted by police, McDowell offered to confess in exchange for immunity from prosecution for the crime. Immunity was denied, and McDowell remained silent on the subject.

McDowell and Jessica
McDowell and Jessica

McDowell was charged with murder, kidnapping, and first-degree burglary in Jessica’s disappearance in January 2022. This case summary includes a photo of him. Authorities have not revealed much about the evidence against him.

Debra is still convinced that her ex-boyfriend is involved in the case. The ex-boyfriend and McDowell both denied knowing each other, but Debra claims they met at a gathering several months before Jessica went missing.

Jessica’s remains were never discovered, but due to the circumstances surrounding her death, foul play is suspected.

Jessica’s Case is still unsolved

Investigating Agency

  • Lexington County Sheriff’s Office 803-359-8230

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